You’ve decided you want to make a career change, and you know that you’re going to need a polished resume to do so.
You sit down to make the updates, and it isn’t long before you feel stuck. The blinking cursor on that blank page has been taunting you for at least a half hour now. You have no idea how to translate your existing experience and skills in a way that will grab the attention of a hiring manager in this entirely new industry.
The job search is always a little intimidating, especially so when you’re aiming to make a switch. But rest assured, you absolutely can transfer your existing expertise and competencies to a brand new field—whether it feels that way or not.
Here’s what you need to know to prove you’re the perfect fit.
1. Identify Your Qualifications
The best place to start is reading the description of the position that you want and asking yourself: What boxes do I already check?
We’re assuming that you aren’t a former software developer applying for a role as a neurosurgeon or an airline pilot. So, even if this career change feels like a bit of a stretch, chances are good that you already possess at least a couple of straightforward qualifications that this role requires.
Pull out the requirements that you meet without a doubt—the ones where there’s no need for you to draw any parallels or offer any explanations for the hiring manager because you satisfy those qualifications without any questions asked.
Maybe you have those 10 years of leadership experience under your belt. Or, maybe you’re a skilled public speaker as the job description requests. Put those things on your list.
This step is important, as it will arm you with the things that you want to draw the most attention to within your resume. Zoning in on those qualities that make you an obvious fit will help you present yourself as a seamless hire—even with your less traditional experience.
2. Emphasize Results
Employers everywhere—regardless of specific industry—appreciate an employee who’s able to get things done and produce results. That’s universal.
For that reason, it’s smart to highlight the results you achieved in your past positions—rather than simply listing the duties that you were responsible for. Particularly when you’re changing industries, prospective employers will care more about what you actually accomplished, and less about how you specifically did it.
Let’s look at an example for some added clarity. Kate previously worked in administration for a regional hospital and is now aiming to make a change by applying for a sales position with a healthcare software company. She knows that her experience in the medical field will benefit her. But considering she’s never worked in sales before, she’s nervous about her perceived lack of qualifications.
Here’s a bullet point from Kate’s existing resume:
Responsible for planning, organizing, and executing the annual hospital black-tie gala.
To emphasize results, Kate should quantify that point with some numbers while also tying it back to a larger, company-wide objective. In doing so, that bullet point could look like this:
Strengthened the hospital’s relationship with 500+ donors, board members, and other external stakeholders by coordinating and executing the annual black-tie gala.
Not only is that second option far more impressive, it also touches on some qualities that would also be important in a sales career—including relationship-building and organization.
3. Connect the Dots
When applying for a role in a different industry, your duty as the job seeker is to make your previous experience appear as relevant as possible. Often, this means that you need to quite literally connect the dots for the hiring manager and bridge the gap between what you possess and what that position requires.
In some cases, this means cutting out things that won’t be applicable in your new industry—such as highly technical skills or specific pieces of software.
Then, challenge yourself to relate your existing experiences to this other field. Let’s look back again at Kate. Based on her research, she knows that meeting quotas are a key part of success in sales. While she didn’t need to meet specific sales goals in her previous role, she does have experience hitting fundraising goals. She could emphasize that in a bullet point like this one:
Consistently achieved the hospital’s yearly fundraising goal of $100,000 through successful relationship building, grant requests, and community events.
This statement proves a few important things about Kate that make her a fit for a sales role: She’s inspired by difficult-to-reach objectives, she recognizes the importance of relationships, and she’s comfortable making requests.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Soft Skills
It’s easy to think of soft skills as those non-important requirements that your eyes glaze over, especially since they aren’t as easy to quantify as more technical capabilities. However, they really do carry weight in your job search. Think about it this way: Would a company want to hire a customer service representative who wasn’t a skilled communicator? Probably not.
The fact that soft skills matter is good news for you, as they are the easiest skills to transfer from role to role and industry to industry. Things like time management, problem-solving, or critical thinking will be desirable in a wide variety of fields.
While your resume can’t be filled with only these softer proficiencies, calling attention to those solid qualities can help to fill in some gaps and present you as a well-rounded and qualified candidate—even if the rest of your experience is a little out of the box.
Making the switch to a new industry can inspire some sweaty palms and shaky knees. But, don’t beat yourself up over the fact that you don’t fit perfectly into the mold of people who normally fill those positions.
Instead, place your emphasis on your passion for this new field as well as the valuable things that you do bring to the table. Do that, and you’re sure to eventually catch the eye of a hiring manager who understands that you don’t need to be predictable to be qualified.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.